Thematic Theme Structure, Hooks, and Filters

On April 14, 2014, in Research, by Chris Prom

One of the most useful resources I found when developing a child theme in the wordpress thematic theme framework was the theme structure document formerly found on the website.

With permission from Deryk, I am reproducing it here:

And, here is another great resource for development using Thematic:

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Job Announcement – University of Illinois

On April 4, 2014, in Research, by Chris Prom

I would like to take the liberty of noting something off topic, that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is recruiting to fill the position of Archives and Literary Manuscript Specialist in our Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

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Selected Email Preservation Resources

On April 4, 2014, in Research, by Chris Prom

This past Monday, I spoke at the Museums and the Web “Deep Dive” on email preservation.  At the session, I distributed the following handout, which is drawn largely from my Digital Preservation Coalition Tech Watch Report.  I am posting it here, in response to a request at the seminar.

Selected Email Preservation Resources

Key Readings

David Bearman,  “Managing Electronic Mail.”  Archives and Manuscripts 22/1 (1994), pp. 28–50: outlines the major social, technical and legal issues that an email preservation project must address; is particularly useful in suggesting ways that system designs can support the effective implementation of policies.

Maureen Pennock, “Curating E-Mails: A Life-cycle Approach to the Management and Preservation of E-mail Messages,” 2006: Reviews the major challenges to email preservation and summarises some prospective approaches, with particular emphasis on the need to manage email effectively during its period of creation and active; also outlines the major conceptual approaches that can be used to preserve email, with somewhat less description of particular tools or services.

Richard Cox, “Electronic Mail and Personal Recordkeeping. In Personal Archives and a New Archival Calling: Readings, Reflections and Ruminations. Duluth, Minnesota: Litwin Books, pp. 201–42.  Reviews the history of attempts that the archival profession has made in preserving email messages and their content, suggesting that the best approaches will understand and preserve them as the organic outcome of our professional and personal lives. Cox suggests that those wishing to preserve email draw on concepts and procedures from both the records management and manuscript archives traditions, but the chapter contains relatively little direct implementation advice.

Gareth Knight, InSPECT: Investigating Significant Properties of Electronic Content 2009: A report on email migration tools, completed for the InSPECT project, includes a description and analysis of the structure of an email message, identifying 14 properties of the message header and 50 properties of the message body that must be maintained during migration if an email is to be considered authentic and complete. The report also outlines a procedure for testing whether particular email migration tools preserve those properties and applies that procedure to three specific tools.

Christopher Prom, Preserving Email, Digital Preservation Coalition Technology Watch Report: Provides a summary of social, legal, and technical challenges and opportunities for email preservation, reviewes and explains internet standards and technologies for email exchange and storage, and recommends particular approaches to consider in an email preservation project.

Useful Tools


Exchange Server: A proprietary application developed and licensed by Microsoft Corporation, providing server-based email, calendar, contact and task management features. Exchange servers are typically used in conjunction with Microsoft Outlook or the Outlook Express web agent. Exchange servers use a proprietary storage format and messages sent using Exchange typically include extensive changes to the header of the file. Calendar entries, contacts, and tasks are also managed via extensions to the email storage packet. Depending on local system configuration, users may be able to connect to a specific Exchange server using an IMAP-aware client application.

Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP): A code of procedures and behaviours regulating one method by which email user agents may connect with email servers and message transfer agents, allowing an individual to view, create, transfer, manage and delete messages. Typically contrasted with the POP3 protocol, IMAP is defined in the IETF’s RFC 3501. Email clients connecting to a server using IMAP usually leave a copy of the message on the server, unless the user explicitly deletes a message or has configured the client software with rules that automatically delete messages meeting defined criteria.

Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME): A protocol for including non-ASCII information in email messages. Specified in IETF RFC 2045, 2046, 2047, 4288, 4289 and 2049, MIME defines the precise method by which non-Latin characters, multipart bodies, attachments and inline images may be included in email messages. MIME is necessary because email supports only seven-bit, not eight-bit ASCII characters. It is also used in other communication exchange mechanisms, such as HTTP. Software such as message transfer agents, email clients, and web browsers typically include interpreters that convert MIME content to and from its native format, as needed.

PST: .pst is a file extension for local ‘personal stores’ written by the program Microsoft Outlook. PST files contain email messages and calendar entries using a proprietary but open format, and they may be found on local or networked drives of email end users. Several tools can read and migrate PST files to other formats.

Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP): A set of rules that defines how outgoing email messages are transmitted from one Mail Transfer Agent to another across the Internet, until they reach their final destination. Defined most recently in IETF RFC 5321.

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Archival Information Packet Structure

On February 18, 2014, in Research, by Chris Prom

When I teach the Society of American Archivists’ DAS Courses “Arranging and Describing Electronic Records,” participants spend a lot of time on exercises intended to help build knowledge about the concept of the archival information packet. The reason we do that is because I believe that once you understand the elements of the packet, you have a much better idea what the end product of your arrangement and description efforts should look like.  Each repository’s packet will look a little bit different since (1) the tools and technologies it uses are different, and (2)  DACS allows a lot of room for local practice and decision making. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been grappling with the need to revise and standardize an AIP will allow the University of Illinois ingest over 5TB of electronic files (both born digital and digital surrogates) into our library’s repository infrastructure.  Here is what I came up with  [updated May 6, 2014]:


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WordPress Accessiblity

On January 22, 2014, in Research, by Chris Prom

I have recently been using WordPress heavily on the University of Illinois main website.  We took many step when implementing WordPress to identify a theme framework that made webpages as accessible as possible.  This eventually led us to the Thematic framework–a barebones parent/child theme which provides pretty good accessibility out of the box.

However, there are several accessibility issues that seem to derive from the WP core rather than themes.  That’s way I was so happy today when I stumbled on this post regarding a WP accessibility plugin:

Updated Feb 17, 2014: here is another post about WP Accessibility:

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By Thomas Padilla, graduate research assistant, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Among the many challenges that archival arrangement and description present, the subjectivity of the archivist is perhaps the most significant. While individual subjectivity cannot be escaped, a distanced form of subjective arrangement and description can be applied by topic modeling collections, a technique that is becoming more common in digital humanities projects.  

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Processing Tools: Guest Post by Carol Kussmann

On August 9, 2013, in Methods, Research, by Chris Prom

by Carol Kussmann, Minnesota Historical Society.

Over the course of my work with digital records at the Minnesota State Archives, I have looked at many different types of tools to assist with processing and preserving electronic records.  Documentation for most of these tools is often lacking.

Recently I attended two classes by the Society of American Archivists (SAA), Arrangement and Description for Electronic Records (ADER) I and II, given by Chris Prom and was introduced or reintroduced to many tools.

Thinking it would be useful to document the functionality of many of these programs to be able to quickly show my colleagues at the State Archives why they may or may not work with our current environment and workflows, I created information guides that describe the main purpose of the tool, where to find the tool, and how to get started.  These guides were then posted on the State Archives website.  It is hoped that these information guides will help others to more quickly test and evaluate the tools for themselves.

As time permits, and as more tools are explored, additional guides may be posted.


Google has announced an interesting new service, the inactive account manager.  Google users can register with the service, and it will automatically send email to up to 10 addresses, after an account becomes totally inactive for a designed amount of time:

Looks like a great outreach tool for use with potential donors who are not quite ready to share their digital stuff with an archives.  All you need to do is talk people into listing your archives email account as a contact!


TrID as a Processing Tool

On March 27, 2013, in Software Reviews, by Bethany Anderson

Filename extensions can tell us much about electronic records and their use; we learn not only a file’s format, but also something about the environment in which it was created and the way it stores data. Knowing these pieces of information provide us with important metadata that enable us to begin assessing genres, providing an entryway into the appraisal as well as the arrangement and description of electronic content.

Many reasons exist, however, for why files may wend their way into repositories without file extensions. Considering divergent file-naming practices over time and changes in the ways software renders extensions, as well as the multitude of events that corrupt or irrevocably alter files during the course of their lives, it is no surprise that file extensions are either missing or a vestige of a file-naming convention that has long since been superseded. Without file extensions, the file has lost a portion of what the OAIS reference model calls its “representation information” (the data the computer needs to render the file by opening it in the proper piece of software). Being able to recover such information with a file identifying utility is vital to providing access to electronic content.

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Welcome Bethany Anderson

On March 25, 2013, in Personal/Other, by Chris Prom

I would like to Introduce Bethany Anderson, who will be posting from time to time on this blog.  Bethany is my new colleague at the University of Illinois Archives, and she is working on a two-year project to arrange, describe, digitize and enhance access to records form our college of Engineering.

Bethany has a MLIS from the University of Texas at Austin, with a concentration in Archives and Records Management; she also holds and MA in Near Eastern Langauges and Civilizations from the University of Chicago and a BA in Anthropology from the University of Michigan.  She most recently worked at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas.

As part of her initial training, I asked Bethany to process to the paper and electronic files of William Greenough, a former professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, Psychology, and Psychiatry.  As part of this, she discovered a very useful tool, which she’ll be reviewing in the next day or two.